In his sit-down interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols following the Los Angeles Clippers' introductory press conference earlier today, Kawhi Leonard spoke highly of his new star teammate Paul George. "This is probably going to be my first time playing with an elite player of his level," Leonard said during the interview. "You know, around the same age as me, same talent. I'm excited."
Is Kawhi right about that? While Leonard hedged his bets by starting off his declaration with "probably," he may be forgetting that he played his first five seasons with the Big 3 of the San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. While Ginobili and Parker were great players, most wouldn't consider them to be elite. Duncan, on the other hand, makes for an interesting conversation.
Around the time Kawhi's talent came to fruition, Duncan's offensive game regressed to the point where he could be seen as a solid role player. So, Leonard could be right, but it was just another compelling take from the two-time Finals MVP that day. He also unabashedly said that, from a basketball standpoint, the Clippers have been better than the Lakers over "the last few years."
With George by his side in L.A., Leonard finally gets to team up with the guy he's sought out since his time with the Spurs.
I asked Kawhi when he first knew he wanted to play with Paul George:— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) July 25, 2019
"I was trying to get San Antonio to get him over to us. You know how things work with trades, he ended up to the Thunder. But that’s probably when the initial idea started, when he wanted to get out of Indiana."
Kawhi also revealed that he got pretty close to signing with either the Lakers or Raptors.
In an interview following the press conference, Leonard was incredibly candid about his decision to go to the Clippers. While Leonard was initially rumored to go to the Lakers, who seemingly freed up the space to take on his contract, Leonard denied that he lead them on in any way.
“If they didn’t want to wait for me, they didn’t have to,” Leonard told Yahoo Sports. “They had a big opportunity to sign me. [The Lakers] were close, but I ended up on the other side...I took my time in free agency, as I should, to make sure I made the best decision for myself and my family.”